In front of The Sibelius Monument Chinese tourists pose for photographs in the rain. The monument was designed by Eila Hiltunen and is dedicated to Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer. It is located at Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö in Helsinki, Finland.
A former Soviet military base lies abandoned on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Evidence of Soviet occupancy can be found all over Estonia and its islands. Soon many of these places will be demolished. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be able to wander through many of the buildings to document their existence before they eventually get torn down.
The initials GD on the wall stand for Giuseppe Despott, the first curator of natural history (1922-1933). He carried out a series of excavations inside Għar Dalam from 1912 to 1917. His claim to fame was the find of two Taurodont teeth believed tat the time to have belonged to Neanderthal man.
Għar Dalam’s relevance as a prehistoric site was discovered in the latter half of the 19th Century with a series of excavations unearthing animal bones as well as human remains and artifacts. The Cave is a highly important site for its Palaeontology, archaeology and ecology.
The history of the cave and that of the Islands can be decoded from Għar Dalam’s stratigraphy. The lowermost layers, more than 500,000 years old, contained the fossil bones of dwarf elephants, hippopotami, micro-mammals and birds among other species. This layer is topped by a pebble layer, and on top of it there is the so-called ‘deer’ layer, dated to around 18,000 years ago. The top layer, or ‘cultural layer’, dates less than 10,000 years and holds evidence of the first humans on the Island. It was here that the earliest evidence of human settlement on Malta, some 7,400 years ago, was discovered.
The site consists of a cave, a Victorian style exhibition and a didactic display as well as a garden planted with indigenous plants and trees.
Salt-pans are reputed to have been used here since Roman times. Salt was a valuable commodity in earlier times; Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with salt – this is the origin of the English word “salary”. The Northern Coast of Gozo proved very suitable for this purpose because it had extensive flat stretches of coastal limestone into which basins and channels could be cut by hand. The hot summer climate with strong drying winds was also an important factor. The basic production process is simple; in early summer seawater is fed into a series of shallow basins through a system of hand-dug channels. After concentration and evaporation by wind and sun during the hot summer months, the white sea-salt can be collected and bagged.
A collection of four statuettes depicting obese figures were found below some steps during restoration works in 1949.
(These figurines are now on display at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta).
The Tarxien Temples date from 3600-2500 BC and are the most complex of all temple sites in Malta, consisting of four megalithic structures.
The temples are renowned for the detail of their carvings, which include domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns. Of particular note is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples, which is famous for its relief of two bulls and a sow. The site seems to have been used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.
Tarxien is also of great interest because it offers an insight into how the temples were constructed: stonerollers left outside the south temple were probably used for transporting the megaliths. Remains of cremation have also been found at the centre of the South temple at Tarxien, which indicates that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.
Mdina is Malta’s old capital city, with Rabat being its suburb. A Bronze Age village is believed to have once stood at one end of the hill where Mdina today lies. The area was subsequently occupied by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans and became an important urban centre. Melita, as the city was known during Roman times, was at least three times the size of the present-day Mdina. (Zammit, p.85)
Zammit, Vincent, 2011. Malta History & Tradition. BDL Publishing.
The building, fully completed in 1749, is on three levels: the underground level consists of a labyrinth of Punic, Roman and Christian Hypogea with interesting architectural features as well as a complex of World War II shelters with two main corridors and fifty rooms.
The main floor has an impressive picture gallery with works by Mattia Preti, Antoine Favray, Francesco Zahra and other Maltese as well as European Artists. Also a collection of 17th- 19th century Spanish, Italian and Maltese silver; a unique wooden altar used for the celebration of Mass on the galleys of the Order of the Knights of Malta; a collection of old relics and reliquaries, sculptures in wood, alabaster and bronze, including a medallion by Alessandro Algardi; maps, coins, prints and rare books among which is King Henry VIII’s ‘Septem Sacramants” written to confute Martin Luther and above all a baroque chapel for the private devotions of the residing chaplains.
The Wignacourt Collegiate Museum at Rabat Malta has been reopened after a thorough refurbishment of the whole building – a baroque residence of the Chaplains of the Knights of Malta inaugurated by Grand Master Aloph de Wignacourt (1601-1622) as well as of its contents.
St Paul’s Grotto, the cradle of Christianity in Malta, the place where St Paul the Apostle in A.D. 60 is believed to have founded the first Christian Community on the island.